We were 34 staff and volunteers, 27 partners and 12 co-sponsors who put together 66 individual programs over the course of three days to the benefit of hundreds of Jewish students and young adults from LA, Orange County and as far away as New York and Jerusalem. The 9th Annual Jewlicious Festival went off without a hitch. I’m pretty sure the issues we discussed and explored will continue to resonate for a long, long time – certainly way after normal sleep patterns have returned.

What did you miss? Where do I begin??? Interactive theater pieces, meditations, multiple styles of services, endless food, and fantastic speakers. Friday night after dinner, participants had a slew of choices – TED style talks by community leaders, social and tech innovators etc. Afterward, we enjoyed a keynote speech by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the Kosher Sex dude. I honestly thought I’d be indifferent to this address but I have to grudgingly admit that Shmuley was funny, entertaining and informative. Hats off to whoever it was that arranged Rabbi Boteach’s appearance at Jewlicious – he was great!

Friday night continued with a Dessert Party and diverse programming like Torah Perspectives on Marijuana, an improv comedy workshop, all night learning and of course, late night snacks. All programming ended at 4:15 am! Yeah, that’s right. Four-fifteen AM!

If people were tired from the night before, you couldn’t tell judging by the number of participants enjoying our morning programs – acrobatic yoga, yoga meditation, wine appreciation and two types of Shabbat morning services. Just prior to lunch we enjoyed a touching program featuring Megan and Grace Phelps-Roper. The last time Megan was at a Jewlicious Festival, she came with members of her anti-Gay, antisemitic Westboro Baptist Church. Picketing the Festival, they help up signs like “Jews Killed Jesus” and “Your Rabbi is a Whore.” Recently Megan and Grace broke away from the hateful theology of their Church. Their first public appearance was at the Festival, where they shared with attendees how they came to leave their Church out of principle, and based in part on a religious conversation they had with, well, me. It was touching, emotional and inspiring and left many people misty.

Afterward, everyone had Shabbat lunch and fortified themselves for the next round of speakers. Diverse topics were covered from gender to “Hot Mamalahs” to activism, innovation and animal rights. This was followed by the “third meal.” Yes. More food! Then we had a keynote address by Israeli Consul David Siegal, moderated by Jewish Journal editor Rob Eshman. It was a casual discussion that was informative and relaxed. Siegal and Eshman’s back and forth banter about diversity in Israel seemed more like a chilled out conversation between friends than a formal speech.

At this point the Sabbath was winding down and everyone congregated on one of the ship’s decks for a raucous and festive musical havdalah. This is always one of the highlights of the Festival. With everyone gathered together one could witness the diversity of the attendees as well as the sense of unity fostered by their shared Jewlicious experience.

Saturday night had fun on the agenda and participants enjoyed movies with their dinner. At the same time, the Queen Mary hosted a swank VIP dinner and casino attended by many of our patrons and supporters. The evening’s festivities culminated with a concert by Jonny Kaplan and the Lazy Stars featuring Rami Jaffee of the Wallflowers and the Foo Fighters. These guys exemplified one of the cool features of Los Angeles – its wealth of massively talented musicians whose ability to totally rock out an audience seems effortless! Also it was Rami’s birthday and we all sang him the Happy Birthday song in both English and Hebrew. Band supporter Darryl Hannah watching from the corner seemed amused. Yeah. that Darryl Hannah. What do you want? It’s LA!

Shai Hadad aka SHAI360 courtesy of Taglit Birthright Israel

After the band wrapped up its set we segued into the DJ and dance portion of the festivities with a fantastic performance by SHI360. Shai Hadad is one of the leading figures of Israel’s hip hop scene and many of the Jewlicious participants knew him from his trademark appearances at just about every Birthright Israel Mega Event. Shai is touring in the US and audiences can expect great things from this seasoned and talented performer – and who doesn’t know the Birthright Song? Needless to say, Jewlicious participants and presenters were up dancing all night.

So now it’s Sunday, right? You figure people MUST be totally exhausted? Well, for some odd reason, none of that was in evidence. Morning programs featuring Acrobatic Yoga, discussions, services and… can you hazard a guess? Yes. More food, including bagel brunch and Mimosas. Folks were munching on bagels and pastries while participating in panels on the Jewish community, alternative healers and more. The grande finale involved the Samba Stilt Circus which is exactly what it sounds like – a group of performers wielding drums, hula hoops and stilts led by a ginger wizard. It was kind of surreal, but what the heck! As for me, it made me feel kind of at home as I am certain that in Israel there is a secret clause in the declaration of independence demanding that any public performance include a guy on stilts. Seriously. No wonder Heeb Magazine Editor David Kelsey wondered if there was some kind of Zionist holy day celebration going on. No, David. Just another day in Jewlicious-Land.

If you were there, I trust you enjoyed yourself. If you weren’t, I’m sorry – there is always next year’s 10th anniversary blow-out! Or the Jewlicious Summer Fest (save that date some time in late August…). Well there you have it. Three days of amazingness. But don’t take my word for it. The Jewish Journal of LA wrote two articles about Jewlicious and we love the Jewish Journal… when they write nice things about us. And right now we’re definitely loving the JJ. Here are the articles:

Jewlicious festival demonstrates inclusive Judaism


9th Annual Jewlicious Festival – Video and Recap


Former Westboro Baptist Church members open up at Jewlicious festival. See also The Westboro Defectors Speak: Phelps Granddaughters Embrace Tolerance.

Follow me

About the author


Founder and Publisher of Jewlicious, David Abitbol lives in Jerusalem with his wife, newborn daughter and toddler son. Blogging as "ck" he's been blocked on twitter by the right and the left, so he's doing something right.